So in the last couple of weeks I have had three great but tough conversations with three great but non-believing guys.
G is an atheist.
J was raised a Catholic, believes in the value of the Bible and Jesus’ teachings, and God as existing though he leans towards a God as energy type definition.
R believes in a loving God, and Jesus and Mary as admirable people, but doesn’t like religion.
Spot the missing link?
And listening to the sermon in church today – and reflecting on what Christians in Loja are like – I wonder if this is the missing link here within the church, too. Often I feel like most people who convert to evangelical Christianity are just people who decide they no longer believe in worshiping Mary or going to mass. We talk a lot about God – about how He loves us, how He frees us, how He has amazing plans for us, how He wants to bless us. God as Creator and Father. (And maybe I should throw in God who doesn’t want us to drink, smoke or dance or have premarital sex. Even though an awful lot of churched young people do all of the above).
But what about Jesus? Do we really understand that He is God, He came to the world as a man, lived a perfect life, died on the cross and rose again forever? Do we really understand what it means to have Him live in us, beyond a warm and fuzzy feeling or emotions running high when you sing praise and worship songs, or a spiritual “experience” when somebody lays hands on you?
And why do I believe all this? (Because the Bible says so. But why do I believe what the Bible says? And so on.)
Two questions came up for me in the course of these conversations:
(1) Do I do my best to say something about Jesus, or do I do my best to listen to their point of view, their take on Jesus?
(2) Do I “evangelise” about what convinced or changed me, or try to hit at what the main issue for them seems to be?
J said to me, “For a missionary, you’re not very pushy about the gospel.” Um, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I think in this case it was a good thing, because I’ve managed to make friends with him, show him I’m not a crazy Bible-basher, show him I’m really interested in what he thinks and feels – he even thanked me for my patience in talking with him about all this. But in some other cases, I wonder if I’m actually a really sucky missionary who doesn’t talk enough about Jesus.
I can talk about what the Bible says about Jesus, that’s quite easy really. But it’s not my job to convince the other person – that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, right? So what do I say? Just pray quickly in the moment and trust that God will speak through me even if I don’t see or understand what’s happening in the other person’s heart?
The thing is those conversations have felt difficult. I think I realised I’m not sure I actually know why I believe.
Like I know what the Bible says, I know I believe what the Bible says, and I know the Holy Spirit has convicted me. But I couldn’t explain in words why and how I know all that. It transcends words and rational explanation. It’s the combination of everything in my life and all the thoughts that have crossed and met and struggled with each other inside my head which have brought me to this point of knowing so profoundly that there’s no going back, whatever logic might say.
But no one else has or ever will live the same life I’ve lived, experienced the same things that have led me to this conclusion. So how do I “evangelise”?
In words, sure – where appropriate. In deed – yes. Words without deeds amount to hypocrisy, deeds without words and you could just be a “good person”. It really is words and deeds across time that is true testimony of our living God, our risen Christ. A life that reflects His. A life that engages with theirs. A life they can see.
That’s what I’ve been trying to do these last two years, I guess. And what I’ll continue to do until there’s no longer any need to witness for Jesus, because all will know Him 🙂